By: Bob Wojnowski
Unfortunately, it’s a fair debate, and one that won’t go away. Which aspect of the Tigers is more annoying (or frustrating, or disappointing): Their offense or their defense?
Now, think about this for a second. The Tigers are fourth in the A.L. with a .263 batting average, but only seventh in runs and seventh in slugging percentage. They do have two players — Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder — in the top six in hitting, with Austin Jackson on the fringe because he hasn’t had enough at-bats.
But this was supposed to be such a slug-happy team; we wouldn’t even notice the awful defense, right? It’s a tough dynamic for a supposed contender: The defense has lived down to expectations, while the offense hasn’t lived up to them.
After shortstop Jhonny Peralta committed two ridiculous throwing errors in the eighth inning that directly led to a 4-3 loss to the Cubs, I couldn’t help myself. (Yes, I know the umps missed very close calls, just as they erred in favor of the Tigers earlier in the game. But you know what? Peralta is permitted to make better throws!)
Anyhow, I had to ask the question on Twitter (@bobwojnowski): Which is tougher to watch — the Tigers’ defense or offense? The overwhelming, ahem, winner was the defense, because of the astonishing inability to make even simple plays.
Earlier in that game, Fielder let a hard grounder scoot right past him, and it was charitably called a hit. The Tigers are 10th in the A.L. in fielding percentage, but that doesn’t begin to describe all the missed grounders or un-turned double plays. They’re last in the league in double plays, by a wide margin.
Cabrera has been OK at third base, not a disaster. But he and Fielder already have seven errors each. And the second-base revolving door does nothing for continuity. If not for Jackson in centerfield, the Tigers might have the worst-fielding team in recent baseball history, and I don’t think I’m exaggerating.
That said, I still think the hitting is more disappointing. The fielding is worse than expected, but the hitting and starting pitching were supposed to hide the miscues. I’m not sure the fielding can get much better, although it must. I’m positive the hitting can get a lot better, and it absolutely must.
Until the Tigers start racking up more than three runs a game — not asking much, fellas — every flaw will stand out even more.